We have a kingdom, and over it we must rule in God’s name.
As we wrote last time, to that kingdom belong our hands and feet, our eyes and ears, our mouth and tongue. And to that kingdom belong all the faculties of thinking, willing and acting.
But there is more to that kingdom.
Every father and mother in God’s kingdom has children over which God has placed them as kings and queens. And as long as these children are under your roof, you are to rule them in God’s name. Sad to say it is so often the other way around. One visiting dignitary from European soil once said, and that in truth, that what he found in America was that the parents obeyed their children so well. Shame on us, but there certainly is a great measure of truth in that statement. The violation of the fifth commandment is by no means limited to the child. It is not a sin that we outgrow or from which we graduate as soon as we have children of our own. Not at all. Even in its very literal form, parents break that commandment almost as frequently as the children do. Parents ascribe to their children the honor of being the ruling faction in the family. Parents wait and listen for the wishes of the children and honor them with the right to rule the home. That is not keeping the fifth commandment. It is violating it. And need we say? that in this you surely have no manifestation of God’s royal priesthood. It is exactly the very opposite. It is dedication unto the children rather than unto God; and there is nothing royal about the matter, it is slavery and subjection.
Many a father and mother takes off the crown and plants it upon the head of their child. Instead of adherence to and rejoicing in a royal priesthood of God, many covenant parents subscribe and run after the philosophies of so-called child psychologists. Instead of studying the Word of God and living from the principle that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, they bow before the altar of unregenerated, worldly minded dreamers. Psychology has its place. And there surely is a child psychology as well as an adult psychology. The soul of the child has its own peculiar ways; and one would be foolish indeed to treat a child the way an adult must be treated. Jesus tells us that we must become like children, or there is no entrance into the kingdom of heaven for us. Not that the child is inherently good. That is one of the corruptions of so much of modern child psychology. It is maintained that he comes into this world with a soul that is a clean slate. You can write on it what you please. The child sins only by imitation. If you only give him good examples, keep all evil from his eyes and ears, and thus out of his soul, he will never walk in these evils. Always approach him with the positive command. Do not tell him that he should not and may not do this. Always tell him what he must do. Be careful that you do not stand in his way when he wants to do something. Stand rather at his side and steer him away. But even then be sure that you are only advising him as to what is good for him. Do not nudge him, not even ever so gently. He must not be told what to do. He must not be forced from his evil way. Just suggest to him how much good there is, if he will only go in the right way. And so on and so on . . .
The child sins by imitation? And from whom did Cain learn to commit murder? Where had he seen man slay man before? And who taught him the added deviltry of hiding his brother’s body under the sand? Where had he heard man talk so disrespectfully to the living God: “Am I my brother’s keeper? Surely he never heard Adam and Eve say such things. They had fallen into sin. Indeed. But they were also after that regenerated children of God who did not behave as reprobates. Adam exactly taught him that he must seek God’s face with a lamb. Cain did not imitate anyone when he came with the fruits of the field in place of that lamb.
And the living God who created the soul of man, is He not the Psychologist of all psychologists? Does he not understand the soul of man; and does He not in unquestionable wisdom approach man in His law with nine “thou shalt not” statements over against one positive command, “Honor thy father and thy mother . . .?” Was He not before these wise-in-their-own-eyes psychologists of today? Was it a revelation of His ignorance and lack of understanding of the souls of the men whom He created when He said, “He that spareth the rod hateth his son?” Proverbs 13:24. Was it the wrong psychological approach when He slew the Israelites by the thousands in the wilderness and later sent the whole nation into captivity? Nay, but let us learn a few lessons from Him. He is the all-wise God whose mind determines what is wise and what is foolish. The child sins not by imitation, although he certainly can pick up a lot of new forms of sin by what he observes and by the encouragement which even his parents give him; but he sins because he is conceived and born in sin, because he comes into this world with a depraved nature. If only two very small children would survive the devastation of nuclear warfare an-d begin to repopulate the whole earth, or if two little children could be isolated upon an island and cared for without ever seeing another human being and the sins of mankind, you would soon, from this pair and the children they would bring forth upon that island, have a generation of thieves and murderers and fornicators. For even as the leopard cannot change its spots, they cannot change their depraved hearts and do that which is right in God’s sight by the life with which they come into this world.
And where has it ever produced the desired effect when nothing but a positive teaching has been presented and no prohibitions have been expressed? The parent who shies away from declaring prohibitions to his child soon finds that he has fallen into all kinds of prohibitions that his child hurls at him. The parent that does not want to be led by his child—and, as we said, the parent who honors his child instead of insisting that his child honor him, also breaks the fifth commandment—that parent had better lead his child. The king on the throne, who does not want to have his people rule him, had better take a firm grip upon his rod and rule them. And God’s royal priesthood had better take up its rod and rule these citizens of the kingdom over which God has placed them.
And that means, certainly, that they do not quickly rush to the defense of their children when they commit sin. It means that they do not encourage their children in such by such a defense of their evil actions. But that they punish the evil for God’s sake and condemn it in no uncertain terms is their calling before God. Once again, when the Heidelberg Catechism says that implied in our name Christian is the idea that we “with a good conscience fight against sin and Satan,” it means that we fight against this wherever and whenever it manifests itself in our families.
And the weapons wherewith we must fight these in our children are the rod and the Word. It is not a matter of fighting with the rod or the Word. Always it must be with the Word,” for it is the sword of the Spirit which God has supplied for that very purpose. At times it is sufficient to use it alone. At times it is the only weapon we may use. But never may we use only the rod. Never is it sufficient to use that rod alone. And the royal priesthood of God that knows Him as His prophet and is dedicated to His cause and to His glory will most assuredly apply that rod in the love of God. He will do that because he loves God and because he loves his child for God’s sake. “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons.” Hebrews 12:6-8.
That is strong language!
But does it not clearly indicate not only that we must use the rod as God’s royal priesthood and rule our children with it, but also that such use is not an evidence of hatred or cruelty but rather of love? God loves His children, and therefore He chastises them. And the chastisements which we receive are an evidence of sonship and not of reject from sonship. If you are His royal priesthood, you will also rule your children with that rod and authority which He gives unto you. And because God’s royal priesthood loves his child in the love of God it will most assuredly use that Word of God in connection with that rod.
In that same connection the author of the epistle to the Hebrews not only speaks of God chastising in His love as a father to His children, but he adds, “Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.” How truly that fits in with the truth of God’s royal priesthood. For in that passage of I Peter 2:9 where Peter speaks of this royal priesthood, he speaks also of their holiness. “But ye are,” so he writes, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people . . . .” God’s purpose is to make us partaker’s of His holiness. For that reason He made us to be His royal priesthood. Therefore He chose us from eternity. Therefore He bought us by the blood of His Son. His purpose is our holiness. And that holiness in our children must be our purpose also in ruling them with an iron hand. Indeed, we said with aniron hand. Holiness is not something relative. Holiness is complete separation from sin. And that means that not one single sin in the lives of our children may we condone. For none of them may we seek an excuse and say, O well, they are only children. They were children who called Elisha a bald head and commanded him to go up. But with them God was wroth, and He sent two she-bears to slay forty and two of them. If we are dedicated unto this God as His priests, we will always be concerned with His glory. And then we will in love rule our kingdom with an iron hand. It must be love to God, or else we are not HIS royal priesthood. Fleshly love serves the flesh. Only when our fleshly, parental love is sanctified by God’s Spirit will we rule our kingdom in that way which is a foretaste of the rule we will have in the new creation.